Monday, March 26, 2012

Book Review: The Probability of Miracles

The Probability of Miracles by Wendy Wunder

“People keep talking about this unfolding. I can't trust the unfolding, okay? If there is some higher power making origami out of the universe, it hates my guts. I was a fat kid whose parents got divorced, whose father died, and then who got cancer herself. So no. I don't trust how things are going to unfold.”-- Cam

This is a (mostly) realistic YA book. It is not a cancer book, at least not in the same way John Green's The Fault in Our Stars or any of Lurlene McDaniel's books are. This is a book about reclaiming one's life and figuring out who you are, and happens to have a protagonist with cancer.

Cam Cooper grew up in Disneyland, literally; her parents danced in the Polynesian review. She also happens to have late stage cancer, and is out of options. Her mother has forced her to try everything from hypnosis to voo doo to conventional/experimental treatments. As a last ditch effort, her mom uproots the Cam and her sister, taking them to Promise, Maine, a town known for its strange happenings and miracles. Cam is reluctant about this move, to say the least, but ends up becoming friends (and more?) with Asher, a boy from Promise. While her health improves, Cam doesn't see any 'miracles' happening, but decides to create some to make her mom and sister happy. Hijinks, drama, and apologies ensue, followed by a road trip back to her Disney roots.

There is an edge of magical realism in this book. Promise, Maine is somewhere between Stars Hollow and Weetzie Bat's Shangri-L.A., in that it's filled with quirky characters and strange happenings that can almost, but not quite, be explained away logically. Everything that I love about Joan Bauer's plucky and unusual young women protagonists, but with an extra helping of snark. I laughed during every single chapter, even the last one. Much like Cam learns that her life is more than cancer, I forgot that this was a "cancer book" by the end.

There was little in this book that I can honestly say I disliked. Cam had her selfish moments, but these were understandable. (Two stand out: when she tried to fake miracles for her mom and sister and when she realized she was getting sick again. If those aren't reasons to emotionally shut down a little, I don't know what is).

I'm honestly not sure if I would suggest this book to those who are dealing with cancer, or have dealt with it with their loved ones. It's not disrespectful or unrealistic in its portrayal, but not everyone one wants this level of sarcasm and wit when discussing heavy topics.

I would recommend this book to fans of Joan Bauer's work, especially Hope Was Here. If you liked The Fault in Our Stars but want a slightly more uplifting story, you'd like Wunder's book.

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